Another big vacancy in the city of Evanston will be filled soon as City Manager Luke Stowe announced Friday he will hire East Dundee deputy chief Schenita Stewart as the next permanent chief of police.
The announcement comes more than a year after the departure of former boss Demitrous Cook, who retired on June 7, 2021. At that time, the city appointed two interim chiefs, held a series of public meetings to hear what residents wanted in a new chief, and hosted a live virtual forum interviewing three finalists.
Stewart, who has served as deputy head of East Dundee since January 2021, will begin as head of Evanston on Monday, October 10, according to the city’s announcement.
“Chief Stewart is an exceptional leader with outstanding service and deep knowledge of the Evanston community,” Stowe said in the announcement. “She is uniquely qualified to lead our Police Department while strengthening community relationships. I look forward to working with Chief Stewart in her new role.”
Stewart grew up in Evanston and graduated from Evanston Township High School, and will bring back 23 years of law enforcement experience. She spent most of her career in nearby Lincolnwood, starting as a patrol officer in 1999 and eventually rising to the rank of deputy chief in 2018. She also served on the Northern Regional Serious Crimes Task Force (NORTAF) from 2008 to 2018, including four years as a team leader.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to serve the community that raised me and supported me my entire life,” Stewart said in the announcement. “This great city of Evanston is the lighthouse community my great-grandparents fled to from Abbeville, SC for a better life. I think if they were alive they would be proud.”
Stewart was announced as a finalist on Friday, August 26alongside Chicago Deputy Chief Migdalia Bulnes and Cook County Attorney’s Office Investigative Chief Joshua Hunt.
An important question that awaits Stewart is Ongoing EPD staff shortagewhich recently led to the department temporary relocation of officers and reduction of investigative services. According to Stowe, the department had 27 vacancies for sworn officers as of August 2022.
The city’s press release lists these career accomplishments for the new boss:
She was twice honored as Village of Lincolnwood’s “Policeman of the Year”, winning recognition in 2000 and 2005.
She is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP), where she serves on the Committee on Rethinking Responses to Common Calls for Service. She is also a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the Kane County Chiefs of Police Association (KCCOPA).
Stewart holds an MA in Criminal Justice from Chicago State University and a BA in Criminal Justice from Illinois State University. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Executive Command and Management Program.
In her spare time, Stewart volunteers as a mentor at The Charmm’d Foundation’s Leadership Academy, helping others reach their full potential. Understanding the importance of strong community relationships, she also teaches community relations to police recruits at Suburban Law Enforcement Academy (SLEA).